Neighbors, friends old and new, came together for a festive evening at Sea Girt Lighthouse in celebration of the historic landmark and in support of the preservation efforts of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee.
The occasion was the 31st annual Signing of the Lease Party, August 6, hosted by the committee. Members and their guests enjoyed lively conversation, drinks and hors d’oeuvres under tents on the north lawn.
Upon arrival, people were greeted by Jerry Hayward, SGLCC president, who thanked them for coming. “The turnout is gratifying and a testament to the strong community support for the lighthouse,” he later observed.
Tickets for the event sold out. Attendance was up over recent years. Among the partygoers were those attending for the first time, as well as people who have attended the party for years in what has become a summer tradition for many families.
Three generations of the Davis family were there, including John Sr. and Mary Lou, their son, John Jr., his wife, Erin, and granddaughters Molly McGuire Davis and Liz Farrell.
Also attending were Sea Girt Mayor Mark Clemmensen, Councilman Joe Bonacci, Patrolman Robert Melendez and local attorney and veteran Sea Girt lifeguard Richard (“Ace”) Aljian.
“All who came here share a love of the lighthouse. The party provides the opportunity to enjoy fellowship, appreciate the landmark and its rich history, and recommit ourselves to the never-ending task of preserving and protecting this historic site,” said Mr. Hayward.
The event, considered by many to be Sea Girt’s social event of the season, is the annual fundraiser of the SGLCC, the non-profit, volunteer organization responsible for the building and preserving its history. All proceeds from the party go to maintaining and operating the lighthouse.
As an example, new front steps were installed and other woodwork in the southeast corner of the porch completed days before the party as part of the ongoing maintenance program.
Colorful Flowers, Cool Breezes, Soft Music
The party was chaired by trustee Lauren Behre, who noted it was a collaborative effort involving trustees, numerous members and other volunteers working together to insure the party was a success.
The lighthouse was decorated for the occasion with flowers and plants located inside and out. The Holly Club, which meets regularly at the lighthouse, replanted the flower bed by the front entrance with impatiens of red, white, pink and violet. Beside the lighthouse sign, noting its activation in 1896, the club placed a pot of zinnias and dune grass.
Sea glass, the theme of the party, was reflected in the tent lighting, colorful decorations in shades of blue, green and white and table clothes of aqua blue. Tables were further brightened by arrangements of blue and white chrysanthemums arranged by the Holly Club. Mrs. Behre also created table arrangements of white roses. She decorated all the glass flower vases with sea dollars and filled the bottoms of the vases with sea glass.
There were several new features this year. Pianist Katie Quinn played a selection on the electric keyboard, providing a soft and pleasant accompaniment to the party fun. Later recorded Frank Sinatra standards played over the sound system. Fans under the tents circulated the cool ocean breezes.
The party was once again catered by Carol Ann McLaughlin, who catered the very first Signing of the Lease Party in 1981 and most every party since. A selection of seafood, steak, vegetable and cheese hors d’oeuvres were served by her capable wait staff dressed in their pastel polo shirts.
Signing the Lease
The Signing of the Lease Party takes its name from the first gathering in 1981 when the volunteers who formed the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens to “save our lighthouse” came together one summer evening to mark the signing of a lease with the Borough whereby the committee took financial responsibility for maintenance and operation of the lighthouse.
The building, owned by the Borough, was then in need of extensive repairs after more than two decades of use as the children’s library and recreation center. The Borough considered selling the property, which likely would have led to the demolition of the lighthouse.
The party was a celebration of the volunteers’ success in preserving the landmark, a thank-you to supporters, an opportunity to cherish what they had saved and a reminder that the effort never ends. And the tradition continues.
Next Day and Next Year
After announcing the traditional 50-50 drawing, Mr. Hayward bid all good night, saying: “Thank you again for attending. See you next year.”
The very next day, Sunday tours of the lighthouse were being conducted by several SGLCC trustees and members who worked on and attended the lawn party, while other attendees volunteered to conduct future tours.
And plans are already under way for next year’s lawn party. Trustee Bill Mountford, who this year assisted Lauren Behre, will be the chair of the 32nd annual Signing of the Lease Party, to be held August 4, 2012, the first Saturday of August.